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  Summer Things Holiday Romance
Year: 2002
Director: Michel Blanc
Stars: Charlotte Rampling, Jacques Dutronc, Carole Bouquet, Michel Blanc, Karin Viard, Denis Podalydès, Clotilde Corau, Vincent Elbaz, Lou Doillon, Sami Bouajila, Gaspard Ulliel, Mélanie Laurent, Matthieu Boujenah, Mickaël Dolmen, Barbara Kelsch
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Summer is upon us, time for holidays, and for two French couples they are looking forward to going to Le Touquet, as they have done for a few years. They feel as if they deserve a break, but one couple need it more than the other as Jerome (Denis Podalydès) is struggling to get by in spite of his wife Veronique (Karin Viard) and her lack of concern about how they are going to sustain their previously well off lifestyle. For their friends Elizabeth (Charlotte Rampling) and Bertrand (Jacques Dutronc), things are muddled too...

But at least they have their money, which it is implied offers them the chance to indulge in affairs, or certainly Bertrand does as he winds up excusing himself from the vacation ostensibly for business reasons, but actually to spend time with his transsexual lover. So you see, this is one complicated set of circumstances director and actor Michel Blanc, here adapting Joseph Connolly's England-set novel, took it upon himself to present to the audience, though he was skilled enough to keep everyone clear and distinct as to who was doing what with whom.

What he wasn't quite as skilled at was securing much in the way of laughs, as with a bunch of characters so stressed and stress-inducing you would be forgiven for losing patience with the more self-obsessed members of the story, which for the greater part of the movie would be most of them. As Veronique and Jerome take their teenage son Loic (Gaspard Ulliel) to a humiliating cabin in a tralier park, not being able to afford the ritzy hotel no matter how much Veronique loudly protests, Elizabeth and her friend Julie (Clotilde Corau) take Julie's baby to the more upmarket residence.

For an example of one of the not especially amusing jokes, Julie still acts as if she's a free spirited twentysomething who never had that child, so lies about not being a mother to hook up with any interested men, as meanwhile Veronique is left to look after the infant, which she does with far more care than with anyone else in her actual family, including Jerome who she has failed to notice is on the brink of suicide and wishes to take advantage of the local clifftops to throw himself off. Yeah, I know, you're laughing already aren't you? Or not, as the case may be, as Blanc mistook acid tongues for genuine wit.

As if that were not complex enough - and again, Blanc does well to keep juggling these plotlines in the air - Elizabeth and Bertand's daughter Emilie (Lou Doillon) has flown off to Chicago with one of her father's underlings from work, Kevin (Sami Bouajila) but fibbed that she is actually with her girlfriend, and poor Kevin finds that his current partner is somewhat flighty when it comes to other men, yet another non-hilarious situation. Lastly, Blanc himself shows up as the husband to Carole Bouquet who he is obsessed with believing she is having affairs when she's about the only character who isn't. Farce was evidently the aim here, yet while it has the energy and fraught relationships it was far too embittered to make you chuckle. Which renders the ending, where things get all philosophical with a Gallic shrug at the craziness of the world, all the more odd - they almost get away with it, however. Music by Mark Russell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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